NaNoWriMo looms. My outline has taken shape. The terrain of a new world sprawls before me, rife with civilization. Characters chatter, love and battle in my head. If you’re like me, that first draft is a molten caldron, uncontainable and ready to erupt. I can’t hold myself back anymore.
A first draft is a flawed, untamed, tainted, wonderful, intense piece of art. Before I started using the volcano metaphor, I likened it to vomiting, spilling my guts over the keyboard. Disgusting, but so cathartic.
A first draft has nothing to do with perfection. It’s about the story. It isn’t the time to edit, to labor over weak verbs, revisit dialog, or craft flowing descriptions. You’ve spent weeks fleshing out your outline; it’s time to put it to work and start spinning your tale.
A few sections of that first draft will feel inspired and flow from your fingertips. Other parts will require patience and will-power as you drag them like whining teenagers across your page. Your outline will help you persist through those hair-pulling hours, because with an outline, there’s no writer’s block. No matter how painful, you know what you have to do.
Get the story out of your skin. Just write it. That’s the point of the first draft–the story. Your outline is your guide, but remember that a creative outline is still fluid; expect it to morph, flex and grow as you write.
My first draft is a constant play between an evolving outline and the written page. My characters continue to surprise me, plots deepen, new scenes appear, dialog ripples off in unexpected directions. I have to go back and add or change scenes, hint at backstory, place the sword on the belt. This isn’t editing–this is getting a story down on paper. At the very same time, I am massaging my outline, changing what is coming based on these unforeseen tangles and turns. I’m deleting and adding, noting follow-up details, tying up loose ends, and making certain that the story is still rational and cohesive when I get to the end.
This marvelous, messy, raw creation is your own foray into new territory. I never share my first drafts with anyone. They’re too ugly. They’re warty little trolls blinking in the sunlight. They need baths and haircuts, a visit to the dentist, and a decent meal. But I love them, and they are princes when I get them cleaned up.
Artwork compliments of creative commons: en.wikimedia.org, flickr.com and pixaby.com.